Designing effective parliamentary inquiries: lessons learned from the oireachtas banking inquiry

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Donson, Fiona
O'Donovan, Darren
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Clarus Press; Trinity College Dublin
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Ireland’s Oireachtas inquiry mechanisms are generally regarded as having been hamstrung by the decision of the Supreme Court in Ardagh v Maguire. This perception of a ‘legal straightjacket’ has been heightened by the public’s reluctance to entrust politicians with investigative powers, as embodied in the loss of the 30th amendment vote. In this article, however, we argue that a marginalised or weak parliamentary inquiry mechanism is not an inevitable consequence of the Ardagh decision. We analyse the manner in which the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 has produced a self-imposed restrictive inquiry structure oversensitive to possible litigation. Reflecting on the operation of the Banking Inquiry, we trace how inquiry design is unduly shaped by the ‘chilling effects’ of litigation rather than other variables. We argue that the Banking Inquiry experience stands as an object lesson as to the importance of developing clear terms of reference which match the qualities of parliamentary investigation to an appropriate subject matter. Overall, this article highlights that, for the Irish constitutional order, greater engagement is needed with the full range of variables which shape the creation, operation and effectiveness of parliamentary review.
Oireachtas inquiry , Bankin inquiry , Fair Procedure , Administrative Justice , Irish Constitution
Donson, F. and O'Donovan, D. (2017) 'Designing Effective Parliamentary Inquiries: Lessons Learned from the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry', Dublin University Law Journal, 39 (2).
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© Trinity College Dublin 2017. This is the accepted manuscript version of the article published in final form in Dublin University Law Journal 2016 39 (2).